Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am smashing opposite number Elliot Daly to the deck was one of the highlights of the first Test against the British and Irish Lions and the Sharks captain said it was a deliberate statement to lay the platform for the physicality the home side were going to bring.
It worked a charm in the first half as the dominant Springboks controlled the game and racked up a 12-3 halftime lead last Saturday. The Springboks’ intensity dropped off markedly in the second half, however, as the Lions took a firm grip on the match through a precise kicking game and their rolling maul.
“That tackle was quite intentional, I wanted to set the standard, to show the step-up in physicality we were going to bring,” Am said.
“I wanted to show that as a team we have a great defensive mindset. This weekend we have another physical battle to take on. But we know there will also be a lot of contestable kicks, it’s always an aerial battle in Test rugby and it’s an area we’ve worked really hard on.
“We know how important preparation is and unfortunately we were disrupted before the first Test and we had a feeling that it might bite us at the back end.
“Unfortunately we could not get the result we wanted, but I think we still played with a lot of energy. We managed to play until the last minute and it was just unfortunate that we weren’t able to convert our chances.”
The Lions were certainly not expected to use the Springboks’ own preferred tactics against them in the second half, with most pundits predicting they would try and scuttle the ball into the wide channels.
Am acknowledged that the Springboks are going to have to adapt better on the field because the tourists have surprisingly made three changes to their starting line-up, which may or may not indicate a change in plan by the Lions.
“The Lions had different styles of players on in the first and second halves and it’s up to us to just try and counter whatever they bring to us,” Am said. “We don’t know their game-plans, but we have to be good at adapting on the field.
“Our system means we always try and cover the whole field and from 2018 we’ve been working on using the aerial battle as a great opportunity to get possession.
“We expect changes to their plan due to the changes in personnel, we have prepared for that and I’m sure we can adapt on the field.”